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Learning English - Words in the News
25 November, 2005 - Published 11:19 GMT
More foreign rice for Korea
More foreign rice to be allowed into South Korea
Rice farm workers

The South Korean National Assembly has voted to allow more foreign rice into the country and have 10 years before an unlimted amount will go onto its market. Farmers say they will take their protest to the World Trade Organisation's next meeting if Parliament follows through on this global trade deal. This report from Charles Scanlon:

Listen to the story

Some opposition law makers made a last-ditch effort to block the vote but they were dragged from the speaker's podium by members of the ruling party. The vote then passed by 139 to 61, doubling the amount of rice South Korea will import over the next decade.

That's still less than 8% of the total market, a concession won after lengthy negotiations with rice exporting countries. But it was still too much for South Korea's hard-pressed rice farmers who say their livelihoods are at stake. They've staged violent demonstrations in recent weeks. Many blame the United States for forcing open Korean markets. They say they're unable to compete with cheap rice from overseas.

The farmers have relied on large government subsidies and a heavily-protected market to stay in business. The foreign minister, Ban Ki-Moon, said the country's image and credibility was at stake. He said failure to approve the pact would have led to a forced opening and the import of much more rice.

South Korea and other Asia-Pacific countries last week identified support for European farmers as the main obstacle to progress at World Trade talks, which are due to resume in Hong Kong next month.

Listen to the words

a last-ditch effort
a final big attempt

pulled with difficulty

speaker's podium
a small platform which someone stands on to give a speech

bring in from another country

a concession
something that's been allowed (to help end the disagreement)

having lots of problems

their livelihoods are at stake
the way they make money so that they can live is not certain to continue

staged violent demonstrations
organised protests which are designed to cause damage to property or injure people

government subsidies
money paid by the government to the farmers to help them

to approve the pact
to say yes to the formal agreement to do something (here, increase the amount of rice that South Korea imports)

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